Deferred Consent in an Acute Stroke Trial from a Patient, Proxy, and Physician Perspective: A Cross-Sectional Survey

Deferred Consent in an Acute Stroke Trial from a Patient, Proxy, and Physician Perspective: A Cross-Sectional Survey
Original Work
Inez Koopman, Dagmar Verbaan, W. Peter Vandertop, Rieke van der Graaf, Erwin J. O. Kompanje, René Post, Bert A. Coert, Martine C. Ploem, Wouter M. Sluis, Féline E. V. Scheijmans, Gabriel J. E. Rinkel, Mervyn D. I. Vergouwen
Neurocritical Care, 5 October 2021
Open Access
Abstract
Background
In some acute care trials, immediate informed consent is not possible, but deferred consent is often considered problematic. We investigated the opinions of patients, proxies, and physicians about deferred consent in an acute stroke trial to gain insight into its acceptability and effects.
Methods
Paper-based surveys were sent to patients who were randomly assigned in the Ultra-early Tranexamic Acid After Subarachnoid Hemorrhage (ULTRA) trial between 2015 and 2018 in two tertiary referral centers and to physicians of centers who agreed or declined to participate. The primary outcome measure was the proportion of respondents who agreed with deferral of consent in the ULTRA trial. Secondary outcomes included respondents’ preferred consent procedure for the ULTRA trial, the effect of deferred consent on trust in physicians and scientific research, and the willingness to participate in future research.
Results
Eighty-nine of 135 (66%) patients or proxies and 20 of 30 (67%) physicians completed the survey. Of these, 82 of 89 (92%) patients or proxies and 14 of 20 (70%) physicians agreed with deferral of consent in the ULTRA trial. When asked for their preferred consent procedure for the ULTRA trial, 31 of 89 (35%) patients or proxies indicated deferred consent, 15 of 89 (17%) preferred immediate informed consent, and 32 of 89 (36%) had no preference. None of the patients’ or proxies’ trust in physicians or scientific research had decreased because of the deferred consent procedure. Willingness to participate in future studies remained the same or increased in 84 of 89 (94%) patients or proxies.
Conclusions
A large majority of the surveyed patients and proxies and a somewhat smaller majority of the surveyed physicians agreed with deferred consent in the ULTRA trial. Deferred consent may enable acute care trials in an acceptable manner without decreasing trust in medicine. Future research should investigate factors facilitating the responsible use of deferred consent, such as in-depth interviews, to study the minority of participants who agreed with deferred consent but still preferred immediate informed consent.

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